Life In The Occupied Palestinian Territories Cultural Studies Essay

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With this term paper I would like to give an overview of the life in the Occupied Palestinian territories, and show how different projects on educating Israelis and the International Community were established. Also I would like to show the different options and hopes people with different kind of backgrounds have and what their ideal solution regarding a just peace in the Middle East looks like.

Daoud Nassar - "we refuse to be enemies"-

Daoud Nassar is Palestinian, Christian and a peace activist. Since 1971 he is fighting for his right to remain with his family on his inherited land, a vineyard close to the city of Bethlehem. For the past 13 years, Nassar has been in and out of the courts, entangled in legal struggle with the Israeli Military Administration that wants the land for roads into Jewish settlements and a continuation of its security wall. So far, he has prevailed. Fortunatelly he has documents which states that this land is his , and when showing it to the Israeli courts, they constantly postponed hearings, because they didn't know how to react on it. Some years ago he founded the tent of nations, where volunteers from the Occupied Palestinian territories and Jewish peace activists join together to help and educate (sometimes traumatized) kids. He uses creative workshops to give them an alternative of the constant pain they suffer in their daily lifes. To give a few examples he explained on his speaking tour he held two weeks ago in Munich when waking up in the morning he barely can prepare breakfast for the family because there is no running water. Driving to Jerusalem is almost a mission impossible as he put it, because it takes him around the whole day because he gets stopped at checkpoints and has to wait there for hours.

Nevertheless he doesn't want to portray the life of Palestinians as victims; upon entering his vineyard one can see a sign with the words "we refuse to be enemies" in Hebrew , Arabic and English.

He admits that life under occupation is hard but one should try to make the best of it and that "evil cant be fought with evil but with good".

The tent of Nation summer camp contains of several projects, olive, almond and grape harvesting, agricultural work on the farmland so it can't be taken away from the IDF control.

Another project is the so called „peace talk" where neighbours gather together to talk about how they feel in their daily lifes. Once a women from the surrounded settlements was invited as well, and as Palestinians were telling about their daily struggle without running water, the Jewish lady was deeply confused because she said she couldn't understand how these people are suffering without running water when four kilometers away settlement houses had swimming pools. This shows that if Israelis don't investigate on their own they never understand the conditions under which Palestinians have to live because they are under constant influence of a "brainwashing media machinery" a topic to which we will come back to later.

Another disturbing fact is that children who are traumatized by seeing a family member die in front of their eyes they barely develop a sense of willingness to survive. Well illustrated in the following case: Children in between the age of eight and 15 that attended the summer camp were asked to write down their hopes and wishes. The scraps were collected anonymously in a jarr. When reading the pieces of paper Daoud read out loud „wishing to die" he asked around who had written this, of course no one dared to answer. He explained how important it is to live even under harsh circumstances and that it is even important to live for this country so that it every one will always be aware and know their roots. A girl stood up and shily admitted that she had written it. Daoud asked her why. The girl (12 years old) explained that soldiers killed her dad in front of her and since that moment she didn't want to live anymore but preferred to be dead and see her dad again. Daoud clearly didnt know what to answer.

Later that day he gave her a digital camera and instructed her to take pictures during the whole day. In the evening when the group sat around a campfire, everyone watched the pictures taken by the girl and she was proud and explained her pictures.

Hope and prospects is exactly what Nassar is trying to convey to these children. They need perspectives and ways how to manage to survive even under the most miserable circumstances.

Jeff Halper - Israeli Committee of House Demolitions

As an Israeli Jew he grew up in the United States and is currently living in Jerusalem he founded the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions in Jerusalem, which is a political institution and is dedicated to end the occupation.

He claims that the two state solution is a pretty good deal for Israel simply because of the fact that Palestinians are today in number a majority.

Israel, so called by jews - Palestine called by Palestinians or the holy land as it is called by Christians, within this country today half of the population is Palestinian before any refugees return and there are about 4 million refugees around in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon and even if some return there will be a majority of Palestinians.

And yet 20 years ago PLO formally and publicy accepted the two state solution.

The Palestinians basically said we recognize you and give up 78% of the original land. In other words by recognizing Israel within what we call the green lane- or 1967 border- the Palestininas in fact gave up political claim on 78% of their land. So the Palestinians said that the West Bank and Jerusalem, willing to compromise nevertheless a state of west bank east Jerusalem and gaza. They will make piece on less than 22% of historic Palestine and Israel did not accept.

They preferred expansion over peace.

The volunteers of the Israeli Committee of House Demolitions resist the demolition of houses, they sit in front of bulldozers; they raise money in order to rebuild homes as a political act of resistance. ICAHD rebuilt more than 160 homes in political terms that are 160 acts of resistance . The volunteers who rebuilt these homes were Israelis and Palestinians together which is a more meaningful action.

Jeff Halper explains in a talk given at the Australian center for peace and conflict studies, the matrix of control that Israelis imposed on Palestinians in three major points. Firs there are the so called Bantustans - a concentration of Palestinians to one point and in fragment their territory. So that there is no coherent Palestinian political society or movement. They are like little islands surrounded by 250 settlements, Israeli only highways and as Halper calls them "obstacles of movement" -checkpoints- around 650 checkpoints that refuse to let Palestinians pass towns and villages and cities so that everyone is confined in these islands.

Settlements have also control of 100 % of the water resources, and divide the West Bank from Jerusalem. Which is a major problem as 40% of the Palestinian economy is evolved of workers from Jerusalem. So these settlements are cutting the only potential to make money to the Palestinian population.

Israelis don't use the word settlement; settlers are called residents, the West Bank is called Judea Samea and Palestinians are referred to as Arabs.

The last action of the Matrix of Control is the wall. Although the Israeli government would more likely to be happy to call it fence.

The root of the wall indicates that it is defining the cantons, it hugs the areas A and B of the West Bank and than it goes around the settlements. So basically, Halper says, Israel can expand to 85% of the country and Palestinians are locked into Bantustans of 15%. And then there are two eastern borders, the Jordan River which since 1948 considers its security border which leads to the fact that Palestinians will never have a viable Palestinian state. The highways which connect the settlements are Israeli only highways a clear system of Apartheid.

Apartheid in Jewish view is not just a slogan it is a word for a system. In its original language Afrikaans it means one population separated from the other; that's the official word of that policy that they use.

The Wall is more than twice as high as the Berlin wall, eight meters, and five times longer, the Berlin Wall was linear; the wall in the West Bank encompasses, imprisons tens of thousands Palestinians so that Palestinians cannot move.

The wall does not separate Israelis from Palestinians, it goes through Palestinian communities, schoolyards and University campuses. Noam Chomsky once called it together with the checkpoints "pure harassment".

In the 1960 s and 70s and 80s people were outraged about two issues: The Berlin wall and the Apartheid system in South Africa. Here you have both of these systems in one little country and no one dares to say anything.

Racism is another problem. Everyone knows the name of Gilat Shalid the Israeli Soldier that is held by the Islamist group, but who knows the names of the tens of thousands Palestinian prisoners.

The wall really becomes a fence in more rural areas, but a real aggressive fence, electrified with movement sensors and in some places there are automatic machine guns set up that fire automatically if someone moves.

There is also the fact of environmental damage due to the wall. Olive trees are taken down, and that's the point where the conflict goes far beyond politics security it gets into symbolic wounds explains Halper, areas of humiliation. One of the most famous Rabbis once said that humiliating a person is far worse than killing a person because it destroys the essence, the dignity of a person which is what human rights is based on. So 400 year old olive trees are uprooted that belonged to Palestinian families and are resold to Israelis for around 4000 -5000$. For Israelis it is very in fashion to have an ancient olive tree in their garden; or they are used as a center piece in a shopping mall or a roundabout in Jewish settlements.

That's the point where the conflict goes far beyond security issues, the same is true with the assault on Gaza in 2008/09 and the disproportion of power. Israel is pioneering in using warfare tactics in combination with philosophy. Prof. Asa Kasheer is the official ethicist of the Israeli Army he said that in modern warfare you cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants. Civilians should be outside of the targets that's a norm stated by international human rights professionals but he is denying it saying one should not differentiate and therefore the most important principal is to achieve its missions and not take civilians into the equation.

So how does Israel get away with this? It develops according to Halper a system of facts on the ground, so first of all officially there is no occupation because it is impossible to occupy your own land and second Palestinians are not referred to as Palestinians but Arabs, so it doesn't matter if they are Iranian, Syrian, Jordanian or Palestinians.

According to Halper this is a system of modern warehousing which Israel is establishing.

In the free market capitalist system that Naomi Klein wrote about; the majority of humanity is considered surplus humanity, in other words the system doesn't need them they'll never be educated they'll never be productive, there are more than one billion people today locked into the urban slums of the world; Illegal immigrant populations; indigenous populations, millions and millions of prisoners, poor people, people don't get warehoused voluntarily so Israel is developing a model he would submit, of warehousing, how do you take a nation and create a matrix of control that allows you to pacify that nation to control it indefinitely and in addition to that make it a non issue, that's where Israel has really succeeded, the fact that Israel has done this and yet has the support of the International community and the Media. Nobody is critical of it. Warehousing has to become a non issue, like Naomi Klein calls it disappearing people, like the disappeared people in Argentina, out of sight out of mind. Who thinks of the millions of prisoners around the world, they're gone. So if we can take warehoused populations and make them non issues and control them indefinitely that's a pretty powerful model, and in addition to modern warfare this is a model that Israel is developing and exporting. Exporting it to other parts of the world and Halper says that's the reason why it gets the support as well.

Gideon Levy - The twilight Zone-

Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist and editor for the Haaretz newspaper, and is vociferous critic of Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Levy's weekly column in Haaretz, "The Twilight Zone", deals with the politically and emotionally charged subject of the hardships of Palestinian living in the West Bank and Gaza, and their conflicts with the Israeli military and Jewish settlers.

Gideon Levy was called by a journalist of the Independent "the world most hated man of Israel and probably the most heroic". He has been attacked by the IDF several times and called repeatedly a security problem simply because he has travelled on and on to the occupied Palestinian territories and monitored in his articles the situation over there. He wants to spread knowledge among Israelis and prevent a situation - which happened in Germany after the holocaust- that Israelis one day claim to have not known anything about the injust treatment of the Palestinian people.

In his latest book "the punishment of Gaza" he reported that the first day of the attack on Gaza which was the time shortly before noon when children were returning from school and crowds 2 were milling in the streets of densly populated Gaza City ; 20 little children pulled up in that school bus at the Indira Ghandi Kindergarten, their 20 year old teacher, Najawa Khalif, waved to them as an Israeli Shell hit her and she was blasted to pieces in front of them. Levy arrived the day after the blast, to find the disturbed children drawing pictures of the chunks of her body.

He described that kids were astonished to see a Jew without weapons and that all that they have ever seen were soldiers and settlers. His biggest struggle he says is to rehumanize the Palestinians because there is a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel that is to explain shortly: Israelis are the ultimate and only victims; and that the Palestinians are born to kill, their hatred is irrational and that they are huge security problem.

One of the story Levy describes in his latest book is the story of "the last meal of the Wahbas family". He wrote: "they all sat down to have lunch at home: the mother Fatma, three months pregnant, her daughter Farha, two, her son Khaled, one; Fatma's brother Dr. Zakariya Ahmed; his daughter in law Shayma, nine months pregnant, and the seventy-eight year old grandmother. A big boom is heard outside. Fatma hurridly scoops up the littlest one and tries to escape to an inner room, but another boom follows immediately. This time is a direct hit."

In small biographical details, he recovers their humanity from the blankness of a growing death toll. He explains how the Wahbas struggled in daily life and had personal problems like the fact that they tried to have a child before Fatma finally became pregnant at the age of 36. The grandmother tried to lift little Khaled off the floor: that's when she realized her son and daughter were dead.

He uses a simple technique by asking his fellow Israelis how they would feel if it was done to them. Once, he recalls, on entering through a Checkpoint to the city of Jenin he was stuck behind an ambulance for one hour. When asking the soldiers how they would feel if it was their sick mother inside the ambulance waiting to get help and driven to a hospital. -This is a common measure by IDF to harras the Palestinians- The soldiers answered his question by pointing a gun at him and said he should shut up. Another time upon entering the West Bank border officials asked him what his intentions were; why he travelled to the West Bank; he showed his papers and was directed to a road which he followed to continue his travel. After a while the same officials shot at the car; not just as a warning or up in the sky; directly towards his head and not just one shot. The car was completely demolished. If it hadn't been bullet proof he would be dead by now.

They didn't even know who they intended to kill they didn't know and they didn't care, the disturbing fact is that they shoot at Palestinians like this on a daily basis.

Another example of the "brainwashing machinery in mainstream media" as he calls it is the headline of one of leading Israeli newspaper during the Operation "Cast Lead" in Gaza: "a dog - an Israeli dog- was killed by a Qassam rocket and it was portrayed on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines."

Levy grew up as his fellow Israelis under the media propaganda that this country is for Israelis only and Arabs are just there to kill, long in his twenties he "would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints and he would think, these are exceptions, not part of government policy."

When entering the army he continued to work as a journalist and went to the occupied Palestinian Territories a lot witnessing injustices over and over again and gradually he understood the real problem and decided to do something to change it. As his family were refugees as well fleeing the German Nazi regime he empathizes with the Palestinian situation.

The historian Isaac Deutscher once offered an analogy for the creation of the state of Israel. A Jewish man jumps from a burning building, and he lands on a Palestinian, horribly injuring him. Can the jumping man be blamed? Levy's father was running for his life: it was Palestine, or a concentration camp.

Yet Levy says that the analogy is imperfect because now the jumping man is still, sixty years later, smashing the head of the man he landed on against the ground, and beating up his children and his grandchildren too.

Furthermore Israel is not a democracy he goes on explaining: " today we have three kinds of people living under Israeli rule," he explains. "We have Jewish Israelis, who have full democracy and have full civil rights. We have the Israeli Arabs, who have

Israeli citizenship but are severely discriminated against. And we have the

Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, who live without any civil rights,

and without any human rights. Is that a democracy?"

"How can you say it is a democracy when, in 62 years, there was not

one single Arab village established? I don't have to tell you how many

Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can

you say it's a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and

Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it's a

democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel

Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent

to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when Jerusalem invests 577

shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a

year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because

of the child's ethnicity! Every part of our society is racist."

When asked about possible solution to this seemingly never ending conflict he suggests that: " the day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the occupation, it will cease. Because Israel was never so dependent on the U.S. as it is now. Never. not only economically, not only militarily but above all politically."

The long history of the Jewish people has a recurring beat because every few centuries a Jewish figure stands up to warn his people because they are acting immorally and foolishly. One of the earliest examples was Prophet Amos who warned that the kingdom of Israel would be destroyed because the Jewish people had forgotten the need for justice and generosity - and he was ignored.

Noam Chomsky once wrote to Levy that he sees in him a similarity to the first Jewish prophet which was for him the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid him.

Levy admits that he is very pessimistic. " Outside pressure can be effective if it's an American one but I don't see it happening. Other pressure from other parts of the world might not be effective. The Israeli society will not change on its own, and the Palestinians are too weak to change it."

But he adds that change is always possible; like the change in the 1980s on the sudden fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union soon after. Or that parts of the regime of South Africa fell within months.

So hopefully the occupation regime will one day fall by itself.

In the meantime, Gideon Levy will go on patiently documenting his country's crimes, and trying to call his people back on the righteous path.

Nassar will continue to lead international volunteer projects and working together with traumatized kids and educating sometimes even settlers about the Palestinian situation. As well as Jeff Halper will continue to rebuilt demolished Palestinian homes.

Small steps that one day will hopefully lead to a bigger one.